iTablet AppStore has its downsides
January 11, 2010
By now, the rumour-wagon has settled on the idea that Apple’s purported tablet device, to be unveiled on the 27th, will run a mobile version of OS X (possibly the same OS as iPhone 4.0). The logical follow-up is that this tablet will also acquire its applications from iTunes, just like the iPhone does with the existing AppStore. In fact, with resolution-independence for iPhone apps being recent among Apple’s advice to developers, it follows that iPhone apps will likely support Apple’s upcoming tablet as a host. In other words, we can likely expect the AppStore to serve up both iPhone and iTablet apps in the near future.
The logic behind distributing applications in this manner for the iTablet makes sense, particularly for Apple’s bottom line. Under regular OS X, Apple doesn’t get a 30% cut of every application sold, nor can Apple control what gets sold, and how these independent applications function. With iPhone apps, Apple effectively makes free money, with the only associated cost tied to a staff of horrible reviewers, who may as well be high-school interns. Why not capitalize on the AppStore’s success by pushing this model into a market for the “general computer user,” which the iTablet will no doubt target?
For many end users, this makes sense. The AppStore is a one-stop-shop for all one’s application needs. Grandma and Grandpa don’t need to make a trip to the local Apple Store (if there even is one) to get new software. Nor do they need to find obscure indy titles by following Apple-minded blogs, or trolling Google for searches like “image editing program for mac”. No, all they need to do is run the AppStore program on their newly-minted Apple device and start browsing titles.
For the rest of us, the power users, the AppStore has less merit. We generally know where to find the software we want, or at the very least, know how to find it. And we’ve all invested time and money into the third-party programs we know and love. And that’s why we’re a bit perturbed at rumours suggesting that the iTablet won’t be running on Intel, because we want the iTablet to replace our general computing computer, but under the traditional application distribution model, not the new one.
If the iTablet isn’t running on Intel, many of our old favorites just won’t work. Kiss goodbye programs like Crossover, for example, which are slowly becoming a staple for the aging gamer in us. Heck, forget about emulating Windows with Parallels or VMWare, unless you want to stick with a MacBook for basic portable computing needs. In general, forget about all the shareware, downloaded applications, widgets, and scripts we’ve been using on OS X over the years. The iTablet cares not for these investments, because the iTablet is here to clear the slate (pun intended).
Yes, the iTablet’s AppStore will be easier to manage than the current way of acquiring applications on OS X. We can delete applications without needing apps like AppZapper to make sure that no residual mess was left behind. But there are other problems, such as iTunes not backing up user data for deleted apps (only apps currently on an Apple device), and the matter of redundancy. Do we need to replace all our OS X applications to acquire iTablet-specific applications now, assuming we’re really going to use the iTablet as our primary computing device? Will third-party developers be able to port their old OS X apps into the AppStore, and somehow give old license holders an easy way to transition customers over for free?
Maybe in the long term, it doesn’t matter. If the rumours are true, Apple is transitioning a good part of their audience (and potential audience) to a cleaner, simpler, computing experience, like ChromeOS and Litl. And they can do that without building an OS from scratch, because OS X even in its mobile form is still OS X, albeit with greater user and developer restrictions. Maybe when this platform has become more ubiquitous, no one will care that we dumped hundreds of dollars worth of software because of what the AppStore is effectively making a new platform. But in the meantime, in the transitional period that could last for at least a year, you know we’ll be bitching about not being able to run legacy OS X apps on our fancy new Apple devices.
Of course, with the AppStore’s quick growth-rate, assuming the iTablet is a success, and assuming the device will do things like support multi-tasking for downloaded apps, bluetooth keyboards, and other “must-have” features for daily mobile computer users, perhaps the AppStore’s benefits will outshine its flaws. Here’s hoping.